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How To Get the Most From Your Mentor Coaching Sessions

Mentor coaching is coaching on your coaching skills, specifically the 11 ICF Core Competencies. This article will explore the best practices I’ve found for getting the most out of your mentor coaching sessions.

The practice of mentor coaching is becoming more professional as the coaching industry evolves. Currently, all it takes is a coach with a higher credential to meet with you to be considered mentor coaching. This won’t last much longer, I predict. In fact, the ICF just updated the requirements adding that the mentor coach must have held a coach credential for a minimum of three years.

Some coaches, in order to save money, ask a friend for mentor coaching. Doing mentor coaching this way may “tick the box” for the ICF requirement, but it’s probably not going to help you achieve your best results.

Here are 10 ways to get the most out of your mentor coaching sessions:

  • Choose an experienced mentor coach, not just an experienced coach. The ability to coach and the ability to teach others to coach are very different. Mentor coaching requires fluency with the 11 ICF Core Competencies, the ability to discern which are present or missing from a coaching conversation, and how to give constructive feedback to improve. Each of these are difficult and require a lot of experience.
  • Talk about you, not how to help your client. The biggest error made in mentor coaching is spending time talking about how to help a client make progress. Mentor coaching is about the coach, not his or her clients. Focus on observations about you, the coach. What happens in you as you coach? Where could you improve? How will you incorporate the Core Competencies more?
  • Coach regularly. I require coaches to have logged at least 50 hours of client coaching before beginning mentor coaching. This is so they’ve had enough experience to be able to take advantage of the feedback of this learning process.
  • Use reflective journaling to dig into your client conversations before you meet with your mentor coach. A good practice for coaches is to reflect on specific coaching conversations and write up what you experienced, what you learn from that, and what you will do next time. I published The Reflective Journal for Coaches as a tool to help coaches.
  • Listen to yourself coach. Recording coaching conversations, with the client’s permission of course, is one of the best way we’ve found to help coaches reflect on their own coaching. In the midst of coaching, we’re too caught up in the conversation to reflect on it. Coaches are often shocked at what they hear themselves say when they listen to a recording of their coaching. The coach recognizes 80% of areas we are prepare to give feedback on just by listening to themselves coach.
  • Use an actual client coaching conversation. Use a recording or coach a client “live” on the mentor coaching call, but use a real client. Coaching another coach (including your mentor coach)  is a different experience.
  • Focus on one coaching conversation at a time. As you and your mentor coach reflect on one of your coaching experiences, limit it to a single coaching conversation. This is so we don’t generalize from several conversations. When we do, we tend to gloss over or over emphasize the positive or negatives in the coaching.
  • Group mentor coaching isn’t just cheaper, it can be better. From my time as President of the ICF Washington State Chapter I learned that coaches want to hear other coaches coach. That’s what happens in group mentor coaching. You’ll hear others coach, give feedback, and hear feedback from the mentor coach. You’ll see other styles and techniques and experience a wider range to express the Core Competencies.
  • Don’t turn the session into a practice building strategy session. Actually, the ICF expressly mentions that coaching on practice building is not mentor coaching, but I still hear about a lot of coaches who do just that during their mentor coaching sessions.
  • Reflect further on your mentor coaching appointment afterwards. With good mentor coaching you will have plenty to reflect on after the appointment. Take time to think through what you learned and how you can apply it in your next client coaching sessions.

Mentor coaching is an opportunity for you to sharpen your coaching skills. Following these 10 ways, you can get the most out of your mentor coaching sessions.

About the author: Keith E. Webb, DMin, PCC is author, speaker, and consultant specializing in leadership development. He is the founder of Creative Results Management, a global training organization focused on helping ministry leaders multiply their impact. For 20 years, Keith lived in Japan, Indonesia, and Singapore where he designed and delivered leadership development programs to leaders around the world.

He is the author of The Reflective Journal for CoachesCoaching in Ministry, and The COACH Model for Christian Leaders. Keith is the immediate past-President of ICF Washington State and lives near Seattle with his wife and their two children. He blogs at keithwebb.com.

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